Illustration of a woman using a streaming service, Seattle, USA. 2015

A new study announces the end of paid digital download within 5 years

Alexandre Trochut
Illustration of a woman using a streaming service, Seattle, USA. 2015

If you wonder why the streaming is announced as the (only) future electronic music’ way of consuming, maybe the new Nielsen Soundscan study will help you understand why. According to Nielsen Soundscan, By 2021, virtually no one will ever pay to download a track.

Last year, paid song downloads dropped another 12.5%, according to preliminary details published by Nielsen Soundscan. In that past two years alone, the drop has been 23.4 %, with paid downloads from sources like iTunes and Amazon dropping below the billion-mark for the first time since 2007. All the big players of music have already understood the situation and have started their mutations, like Apple accelerating the plunge by aggressively pushing consumers towards Apple Music streaming accounts. There is no coincidence.


Sources: Nielsen (2005-2015); Digital Music News projections (2016-2021)

Streaming Vs Download : An already losing war

Accordingly, the music world will witness a more dramatic download plunge in 2016, with 12.5% shifting towards 18%, according to conservative DMN estimates. The decline will subsequently accelerate to 25% in 2017, with a 40% drop anticipated in 2019.

The main reason of this decline? Streaming !!! Last year, the number of music streams doubled to 317.2 billion streams in the US alone, thanks to explosive growth across Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music, among others which is directly assassinating paid downloads.

In the future, downloads will occupying a niche space in music listening experience, alongside CDs and other marginalized formats.


Source: Nielsen

When technology develops at the expense of artists

Meanwhile, future music fans will enjoy even better connections, better localized cache, and a far more seamless level of access to streaming, cloud-based music.  Sounds like dramatic progress, except for the devastating impact it will have on artist and label royalties.

The math is stunning: right off the bat, a paid download accounts for at least 140 times the revenue of an equivalent stream, and that’s a best-case scenario based on aggressive per-stream royalty estimates. Independent labels, many of whom have wholeheartedly embraced streaming in the name of technological progress, will likely be the first group to suffer massive financial consequences.

Electronic music is a niche and there’s many reasons that new players will take the relay of Beatport. Even if it has already evolved – what it has done – by offering streaming via Beatport (the legal download platform for DJs becoming “Beatport Pro“). Therefore, the only remaining question for electronic music artists, is the new ways of income, the ones who already only earn money through their dates in clubs and festivals rather than the sale of their music still need solids incomes to continue to produce music.